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ElsaMac

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A Sandwich a Day: Tuna Melt at the Palace Grill Sandwich Shop

good quality tuna, with nubbins of pickle relish and finely chopped hard-boiled egg

I also have a weakness for tuna melts, and I never knew until just now what a narrow escape I've had; if a restaurant served me a tuna melt with chopped egg and relish in the tuna salad, I'd be very sad. I hope they note the additions on the menu, which would at least save me from disappointment.

… man, now I'm just thinking about tuna melts. And fries.

Cook the Book: 'My Paris Kitchen' by David Lebovitz

The first thing I think of is a baguette, and then I realize you specified an iconic "dish." Well, for me, that means escargots, which I used to eat as often as possible as a child and which I haven't had in years and years. (The handful of places in my town that serve them are too innovative to stick to the nostalgic classic I crave: just snails in garlic-parsley butter.)

Bake the Book: Ample Hills Creamery: Secrets and Stories from Brooklyn's Favorite Ice Cream Shop

Pistachio or, if real pistachio isn't available, my general guideline is "chocolate with something in it or something with chocolate in it."

Cook the Book: 'Joy of Kosher' by Jamie Geller

The dairy-only kosher deli where I used to go most Sundays had a lot of treats I loved: the knish, the black & white cookie, the mandelbrot. But hands-down, my favorite was the cream cheese, which isn't thickened with gelatin, so it's lusciously smooth and creamy. Whatever else I bought to take home, I always spent a happy morning there over a toasted sesame bagel with scallion cream cheese, a creamy cup of coffee, and a copy of the local paper.

Bake the Book: Frenchie

My "favorite" will change from day to day, but lately I've been craving moules marinieres, with a crusty baguette to soak up all the luscious broth and a big, bright pile of arugula on the side.

Cook the Book: 'The New Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone' by Deborah Madison

Picking our household's favorite is asking too much, so I'll pick a vegetarian dish that's most-often requested for family holidays by non-vegetarians: Deborah Madison's butternut squash galette with caramelized onions and garlic in a yeasted olive oil dough. I like to serve it with something green and fresh and simple, like Brussels sprouts or broccoli tarted up with a little lemon.

Cook the Book: Lonely Planet's 'The World's Best Spicy Food'

I'm embarrassed to say I have no idea what it was. My then-partner and I, neither of whom speaks any Korean, were at a Korean restaurant where no one spoke English. We muddled through ordering by indicating a few dishes on the menu; I wondered at the time if our server took pity on us and balanced out our choices a bit, or if we just got lucky.

Most of the food was delicious, but one meat dish was bright red with peppers and so hot it hurt my mouth. Now I suspect that we could have tamed it to a pleasant burn by being less shy with the banchan, but we didn't know that then. We kept trying, but at the end we ate every scrap of our meal except that one brimming-full bowl of spicy meat, and our server laughed and laughed.

Cook the Book: 'My Irish Table' by Cathal Armstrong

Shepherd's pie, for sure, with lamb.

Bake the Book: First Prize Pies

Banana cream or coconut cream.

Cook the Book: 'Kitchen Confidence' by Kelsey Nixon

Most of my essential dishes aren't recipes but templates, things I can toss together with confidence and improvisation. But for recipes? That would have to be a cottage pudding recipe from a mid-century Fannie Farmer, which I routinely alter by subbing in, say, toasted ground almonds for a half-cup of of the flour, or adding in blueberries and streusel, or altering the leaveners and replacing the milk with yogurt, or laying the batter in the pan over sliced apples and sugar and butter, or using it for pineapple upside-down cake, and always throwing in nutmeg and lemon zest. I make it at least once a month, far more often than I make any other recipe, for everything from a hearty coffee cake to a simple dessert.

Cook the Book: 'Down South' by Donald Link

Hush puppies! I moved back north as a teenager and I've been missing hush puppies ever since. It's only recently that it occurred to me that, oh no kidding, I could make them instead of just sitting around pining for 'em.

Bake the Book: The Model Bakery Cookbook

I'd serve mini-fuit pies. Not hand pies, though they're in vogue, but miniature pies made in miniature pie pans, maybe two sizes: a two-bite size and a full-serving size, just bigger than a Table Talk pie. There's something very satisfying about a single-serving pie filled with wholesome, delicious ingredients.

Cook the Book: 'Spain' by Jeff Koehler

It's not a dish itself, but it makes a dish out of the simplest foods: romesco sauce.

... aaaaand I just figured out what we're having for dinner: something with romesco sauce. Yum.

Staff Picks: What's Your Least Favorite Dessert?

German's chocolate cake, which I never see these day but was ubiquitous when I was a kid. I prefer dark chocolate to sweet pale chocolate, I find the texture of that caramel mixture full of nuts and coconut offputting, and I remember the cake itself always seemed quite dry.

But those are memories from childhood, and maybe I'd like it if I ran into it today.

Bake the Book: The Irish Pantry

I lean pretty heavily on grains (flours, oatmeal, a few different grinds of cornmeal and masa, rices, wheat berries), dried and canned beans, and nuts.

Cook the Book: The 'Roberta's' Cookbook

I don't have a single "most creative" dish, but I do have a most creative habit: on evenings at my mother's, I'll poke through the fridge and make dinner from whatever leftovers look most promising. A memorable recent example:

Lightly fried sole (one big fillet, still uncooked, left over from a dinner party the night before) served over a mound of smoked paprika potato puree (half a packet of store-bought mashed potatoes enriched with a splash of half-and-half, a big spoonful of smoked paprika, and the tail-end of a bunch of scallions) and topped with garlicky shrimp (the scant leftovers from the dinner party's shrimp cocktail, seared for a few seconds in garlic butter) and topped with a sherry-garlic butter sauce, served with a pile of julienned carrots, red pepper, and asparagus and a wedge of cheese toast (the drying-out end of an Italian loaf and the last bits of a wedge of Parmesan). It. Was. Glorious.

The Best Valentine's Day Giveaway Ever: Lobel's 4" Prime Dry-Aged Heart Shaped Steaks for Two

The Fella's a longtime vegetarian, so I'd make him a pan-seared garlic-spiked portabello or two first, then fire up the pan to make myself a steak: rare with just a bit of coarse salt and pepper, maybe a bit of butter. Mmmm.

Cook the Book: 'Daniel: My French Cuisine' by Daniel Boulud

I'd forgotten until I read a comment above: yes, Julia Child's boeuf bourguignon was far more time-consuming in reality than it looked on the page – and worth every moment of labor. So delicious.

Bake the Book: Puddin'

Chocolate is easily my favorite, but as a kid I adored pistachio, and now I'm wondering if a homemade pistachio pudding – a true pistachio, undiluted by almond – might be just fantastic.

The Food Lab: Easy Red Lentil Soup With Curry Yogurt

That front-page photo was mighty compelling: I had to click through to see how you got that velvety-smooth texture. I should have known it was from blending with olive oil. Thanks for the recipe; I'll try it soooooooon.

Cook the Book: 'One Good Dish' by David Tanis

That depends so much on season and schedule and especially on the people I'm cooking for that it's hard to pick. But I do get requests for chicken liver paté far out of proportion to the popularity of livers.

Bake the Book: Levi Roots' Sweet

Handpies with fruit filling, maybe blueberry, maybe blueberry-blackberry.

Bake the Book: The Four & Twenty Blackbirds Book of Pie

Wild blueberry or, when my sister brings blackberries from her backyard, blueberry-blackberry.

Win Pop Chart Lab's 'The Various Varieties of Fruits'

Do I really have to choose between tomato, avocado, and eggplant? Because I'd rather have a sandwich with tomato, avocado, and eggplant.

The Food Lab: The Science of the Best Chocolate Chip Cookies

Reporting back about the sugar cookies, Kenji: I made sugar cookie dough, baked half after an overnight rest, then baked the second half the next day. And...

... I didn't notice any difference between the two batches. I did notice that these sugar cookies tasted great, but I don't know whether that was the overnight rest or whether I'd just forgotten how much I love sugar cookies, which I hadn't made in several years.

So. Inconclusive. In the interests of SCIENCE, I might have to make some more cookies soon.

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